twenty

Twenty.

I’m sitting in bed typing this and Lily is reading a Chinese newspaper she picked up after dim sum with The Girl this morning. She wants to keep those language skills alive. Tomorrow morning I’ll read this one last time and then press “Publish”.

It will be July 16th, 2014 and I’ll have been married for twenty years. I’ve been with her for more than half of my life. Memory works by association and I remember all of those years from when I first met her.

It’s easy for me to remember. A smell, a word, a sound and I can associate it with something involving her.

I can do the same thing from before we met but those memories are strange.

I remember my family. I remember school. I remember summers upstate for weeks running around in just shorts and nothing else. Shoes at home will always be optional for me because of that.

She’s there in those memories but she’s not. It’s like she’s off stage and just hasn’t stepped into the scene.

I’m learning how to swim in a lake and she’s just out of sight at the shore. I’m coming back from the grocery store for my mother carrying 2 big brown bags full of food and she’s just around the corner. I am speaking with my grandmother and she’s there listening to every word. I’m learning that I have some of my other grandmother’s gift with animals and she’s nearby but she doesn’t like dogs. I’m climbing a tree and she’s waiting for me to come down. I’m in high school and my grandmother is gone. She’s reaching out to me waiting to hug me.

She’s there and I can’t explain it. It feels like I’ve known her, wept with her, lived with her and loved it all my whole life.

We’re meeting for the first time. I’m nervous and I don’t know what to do or say. My friend introduced us. I don’t know how I have the confidence to speak with her and I’m speaking too much. I’m meeting her family for the first time and working hard to impress them. I’m holding her hand. She’s meeting my family. We’re starting our own family. We’re doing things together, big things. It’s all so easy saving, planning, doing it all with her.

She’s reading this. She’s here. She’s with me.

plane-went-that-far

Just mind the wind

My son is a fan of all things remote controlled and his latest thing is R/C airplanes. After indulging him with R/C cars Lily and I told him that he could get one under 2 conditions: he had to earn it and he had to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Note to aspiring parents: watch out for setting well defined conditions. After weeks for trying to behave well and saving up we went to the hobby store and picked up a HobbyZone Duet. He paid cash and got a receipt.

This is a starter plane and like most of them is built using light weight foam. Last week it took a nose dive and I had to use white glue and clear tape to put the nose back on. He did everything right but it took a dive onto some pavement and neatly broke the nose off.

Yesterday we went to his school and he gave it a good run but within 2 minutes he wanted to stop.

“Dad? I’m going to land it now.

Me: You could but why not keep it in the air for a while? Notice how there’s nothing you can crash into up there?”

That convinced him and he built up his confidence and nearly ran the battery down. He landed perfectly in the grass (we took the landing wheels off).

The second run was more fun. The plane weighs next to nothing and a light wind pushed it slowly across the school fields. Slowly as in we didn’t notice how far it really was until we saw the tree line. Fortunately he landed it without crashing and we had a great time.

It’s a fun hobby but this plane really needs a calm day to fly.

Kids? The no snow today is my doing

This is something that’s bugged me since yesterday and I figured I’d post a public apology to my children. You see, they really wanted a snow day today or at least a delayed opening.

I’m going to take the chance and hope that my kids can someday forgive me and understand this mighty burden that fate has placed on my shoulders.

Letter to my kids

Dear kids,

I know you were looking forward to not going to school today but you are old enough to learn the truth. Your father has the super power of being able to prevent things from happening merely by preparing for them.

I’ll pause for a moment while you take that in.

I know. Right now that your eyes are wide open in shock and you may even yell out “I knew it!” but please think of your Grandmother. It’s too early for that sort of outburst.

I discovered I had this ability when I habitually carried my umbrella everywhere I went. It was tied to my backpack and I would forget I even had it. It never rained those days or if it did it would stop as soon as I hit the street.

But the day came that I switched bags and left the umbrella at home. That day on the way to Penn station we suddenly got 11 inches of rain in 30 minutes and I was soaked to the bone.

Seriously, I was wet for a week.

Now, your mother may tell you something like “Some people never learn to stay out of the rain” but please understand that she’s only trying to protect you from the truth.

Yesterday, fully armed with the knowledge of the Impending Snow Apocalypse™, I went to the gas station and filled up the portable tank. We now have enough gas for the snow thrower for the next 2 years at least. I moved the car in and put the snow thrower in right at the garage entrance.

I did this not out of malice nor did I intend to rob you of your cherished snow day. But I’m told the older generation has had it with snow and I’ve learned with enough Adult Supervision™ you have no choice but to be “grown up” about these things.

As a result of my actions we got almost half an inch of snow. If I had merely not done anything then I am sure we’d have had easily 14 inches.

So now you know the truth. When I prepare for something it is a hard guarantee that it will not occur. I hope you can forgive your father someday for robbing you of that snow day.

Your father,

Jan Dembowski

P.S. This may be the last communication from me for a while. I switched bags today and noticed that I left the umbrella home today.

Afterwards

I hope they take this letter well. It’s really cold enough today and I hope that Lily doesn’t mind my revealing myself like that to them. Or the world! She’s always concerned about what other grown ups may think about what I reveal about myself.

I’m not asking, but if I did ask what would be the answer?

My 12-year-old has gotten into trouble at home and even though he’s grounded it’s alright. He’s 12 after all and I got into LOTS of trouble when I was his age.

My parents had 4 sons and the whole family is opinionated and we all fought everyday. I learned at an early age where the line was and exactly how far over the line I could go before I got into real trouble.

This is a skill I carry with me in the workplace and for the last 6 years I’ve not gotten into that sort of trouble at work. That’s despite saying some extraordinarily ballsy things too. My sense of humor just comes out at the best times.

It’s good to know where the line is and how far you can stretch over it.

So I was really amused when my son came home this afternoon and said this.

“Dad. I know I’m not allowed to use the computer. And I’m not going to ask if I can. But if I were going to ask you when I can use the computer what would your answer be?”

My reply was along the lines of “Don’t push it kid” but after he left I laughed. He’s a smart kid but I do worry that his generation doesn’t have to deal with consequences at an early age. Later on yes, but every infraction can be fixed quickly. My son hasn’t yet learned that the plate is hot and you don’t put your hands on it cause it hurts.

Meh. There’s no rush. The kids will grow up soon enough.

That was a good day

Since Lily became half owner of a wine and liquor store she and the other owner (very cool friends of ours) have been working everyday since September. They took off Christmas Day because New York state says they had to close.

That’s one time I agree with the state blue laws.

Lily came up with an idea: they alternate Sundays off since that’s a short day (short as in 12PM to 7PM). The other partner was off yesterday and I worked the whole day with Lily. She’s off next Sunday as she plans to see family for Chinese New Year.

My day job is that I work in IT networks. I specialize in Internet related infrastructure such as DNS, proxies, firewalls, routers, switches, etc. The last time I worked in a retail setting was around 1988 for The Nature Company at the South Street Seaport.

What I did for that time was

  1. Make deliveries (went to an amazing cigar lounge, it was a very cool place).
  2. Move stock from the basement to the store.
  3. Help customers find what they want.
  4. Pretty much gofer anything that Lily said to.

I don’t think there is much chance that I’ll give up my current gig or line of work for doing this full time.

Afterwards we went out to a local thai food restaurant. The whole day was like a date. It was great and for the first time in months we spent the entire day together.

Being a store owner is not an ambition of mine. As I’m a contractor I generally just want to be paid and the appeal of “being your own boss” fell off my radar years ago. But I do understand and support Lily’s goal.

So I’ll give up more Sundays and work in the store. Eventually I’ll get the Internet connectivity in the basement working reliably and I’ll office from their on my WFH days. After all, that’s what a spouse ought to be doing. ;)

Cats do not like change

When my parents moved out of their house into Lily’s and mine they had a Siamese cat. I drove the cat to the new house and he spent the short ride perched behind my neck on both shoulders.

Siamese cats are very talkative and I got an earful the whole ride.

When we got to the new house I took off my coat and he started to walking around the house. Eventually it was too much for him and he crawled into one of my coat sleeves. We thought he’d gotten out and was lost but he was just hiding while trying to adjust to the change.

I know how he felt. I’ve seen some changes this past year and a half.

The biggest is that my family lost my Dad in 2012 and I’m still dealing with that. His funeral was the day that hurricane Sandy landed in Long Island. I happen to think that’s appropriate since everyone was saying goodbye to a great man.

Dad did not like funerals and would have been unhappy that we had made any fuss. But all in all it was a cathartic experience and that’s really the point. I see him in almost everything I do especially with my interactions with the kids. It’s a shocking role reversal for me but I’m doing alright.

The other change I’ve been dealing with is more along the lines of “stop being a crybaby Jan!” Lily and old friends of ours purchased a wine and liquor store. She’s been working there straight for 100+ days without a single day off.

This completely changed my daily routine. Previously I would spend about an hour on the train next to her and another 15 minutes walking down 8th avenue from 33rd to 23rd street. After 5 PM I’d meet her and spend another hour on the train heading home. Round it up to 3 hours a day I’d spend with my wife and I miss it.

See what I mean about the crybaby part?

Lily’s fulfilling an ambition of her’s and I fully support her and help whenever and however I can. On Christmas Eve I was making deliveries and working the floor at the store. I even got $22 in tips for making those deliveries. Sweet!

But cats do not like change. They need time to adjust and they always want to go back to the way things used to be. So I’m dealing with it and still adjusting. Eventually I’ll find my equilibrium and it will all be fine but until then I’ll be hiding in one of my coat sleeves.

P.S. You know when the cat runs up the stairs really fast and stops at the top looking around? And you walk to them and they run off? I still do that.